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What is Prayer?by Duane Mabee on January 27, 2021
What is prayer? We are in the middle of a 40 day focus on prayer, so surely, we know how to answer that question. Or do we? How would you answer it?
For many, prayer means telling God what I want and asking Him to provide it. In some cases, it means demanding that God provide it. God did tell us to bring our requests to Him, but I don’t believe that is the sum of what prayer is.
Another way to define prayer is that it is personal communication with God. It is a conversation with God. Tim Keller defines prayer as “a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God. …because our definition understands prayer as a response to the knowledge of God, it means that prayer in profoundly altered by the amount and accuracy of that knowledge.” In Keller’s definition, prayer is two-way communication. We listen to God and then respond to what we hear Him say. We get to know God better and more personally and then we respond to Him out of what we know of Him.
Another way to define prayer is that it is a relational demonstration of our complete dependence on God. Prayer is relational. It is not a monolog. In other words, we shouldn’t be doing all the talking. Any relational conversation will be built on both listening and speaking – hearing and understanding, mixed with self-disclosure. Prayer is also a demonstration of our complete dependence on God. That’s the piece that probably makes prayer difficult.
Keller writes, “We cannot go into God’s presence unless we are dependent on Christ’s forgiveness and His righteousness before God, not on our own.” If we can’t enter God’s presence unless we are dependent on Christ, then we have no reason to believe that we can present a list of requests or demands without complete dependence on Christ as well.
Every time we approach God in prayer our hearts should be steeped in the understanding that we are completely dependent on Him. We can come boldly into His presence, because of Him. We can ask Him for anything, because of Him. We can tell Him anything that’s on our hearts and minds, because of Him. Prayer is a recognition and expression of our complete dependence on God.